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Saudi airman suspected in Naval Air Station Pensacola shooting
(Reuters) - A member of the Saudi Air Force visiting the United States for military training was the suspect in a shooting that killed four people and injured eight at a U.S. Navy base in Florida on Friday, the state governor and other officials said.
The shooter was killed by sheriff's deputies responding to the dawn incident at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the Navy and local sheriff's office said, the second deadly shooting at a U.S. military installation this week.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the suspect was a Saudi national attending training at the base as part of long-standing Navy program open to U.S. allies. The motive for the violence was under investigation.
"There is obviously going to be a lot of questions about this individual being a foreign national, being a part of the Saudi Air Force and then to be here training on our soil," DeSantis said at a news conference. "The government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for these victims. They are going to owe a debt here, given that this was one of their individuals."
U.S President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia's King Salman called him to offer condolences and sympathy to the victims.
"The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people," Trump wrote on Twitter.
In a statement, King Salman condemned the shooting as a "heinous crime" and said Saudi security services were working with U.S. agencies to try to uncover the cause.
The suspect used a handgun in the incident, which played out over two floors in a classroom building at a base whose main function is training.
"Walking through the crime scene was like being on the set of a movie," Sheriff David Morgan said.
The first reports of an "active shooter" on the base came through to the Escambia County sheriff's office at about 6:51 a.m., officials said.
A few minutes later, a sheriff's deputy fatally shot the shooter in a classroom on the base, Morgan said.
The suspected shooter was Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trainees are highly vetted
In recent weeks, 18 naval aviators and two aircrew members from the Royal Saudi Naval Forces were training with the U.S. Navy, including a stint at Pensacola, according to a Nov. 15 press release from the Navy. It was not clear if the suspected shooter was part of that delegation.
The delegation came under a Navy program that offers training to U.S. allies, known as the Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity.
A person familiar with the program said that Saudi Air Force officers selected for military training in the United States are intensely vetted by both countries.
The Saudi personnel are "hand-picked" by their military and often come from elite families, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they did not have permission to speak to a reporter. Trainees must speak excellent English, the person said.
Saudi Arabia's embassy in Washington did not respond to questions.
Two sheriff's deputies were injured, one shot in the arm, the other in the knee, but both were expected to survive, officials said at the news conference.
Eight people were taken to Baptist Hospital for treatment, hospital spokeswoman Kathy Bowers said.
Sheriff's officials said one of the three victims died after being taken to the hospital, but it was unclear whether that victim was one of the eight who arrived at Baptist. Bowers declined to say.
While military bases house the nation's most powerful armaments, military personnel normally are restricted from carrying weapons on base unless they are part of their daily duties. Nonetheless U.S. military bases have seen deadly mass shootings before, including one in Ford Hood, Texas, in 2009 that left 13 dead and one at the Washington Navy Yard in 2013 that killed 12.
On Wednesday, a sailor shot three civilians at the historic Pearl Harbor military base in Hawaii, killing two of them before taking his own life.
The Pensacola base, near Florida's border with Alabama, is a major training site for the Navy and home to its aerobatic flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels. The base employs more than about 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel, according to its website.
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson told reporters the base is "an incredibly important part of our community."
"We're a military town," he said. "Our hearts and prayers are connected to all of those that serve us every day."
Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)
Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.
Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.
75 years ago, Audie Murphy earned his Medal of Honor with nothing but a burning tank destroyer's .50 cal and insane bravery
Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018
On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.
Florida senators are pushing for Purple Hearts for service members wounded in the NAS Pensacola shooting
Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.
"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.
The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.
When Oscar Jesus Temores showed up to work at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story each day, his colleagues in base security knew they were in for a treat.
Temores was a master-at-arms who loved his job and cracking corny jokes.
"He just he just had that personality that you can go up to him and talk to him about anything. It was goofy and weird, and he always had jokes," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Lopez, a fellow base patrolman. "Sometimes he'd make you cry from laughter and other times you'd just want to cringe because of how dumb his joke was. But that's what made him more approachable and easy to be around."
That ability to make others laugh and put people at ease is just one of the ways Temores is remembered by his colleagues. It has been seven weeks since the 23-year-old married father of one was killed when a civilian intruder crashed his pickup truck into Temores' vehicle at Fort Story.